ST. LOUIS – Give the Wild an “A” for effort … and zero points in the standings.
This is how bad it has gotten for the clearly frustrated Wild.
After a scoreless first period against the St. Louis Blues, the Wild tied a franchise single-period record by firing 24 shots in the second. The result? It was outscored 3-1 in an eventual 4-1 loss at Scottrade Center.
Despite the Blues being in a 0-for-19 power-play spell in eight games since Jan. 12, the Wild gave up three power-play goals in a game for the first time since Dec. 12, 2013, at San Jose and 16th time in franchise history.
Wild killer Vladimir Tarasenko and Jori Lehtera scored the man-advantage tallies in the second period, and Paul Stastny scored the other second-period goal as the Wild fell for the 10th time in 11 games (1-9-1) and 13th time in 16 games (3-10-3) in 2016.
Troy Brouwer later scored a power-play goal in the third. It was a lousy end to Hockey Day in Minnesota. The Wild, playing on the road for the first time on the celebratory day, snapped a six-game winning streak on Hockey Day.
So, what next in Mike Yeo’s bag of tricks?
Against the Blues, Yeo scratched struggling vet Thomas Vanek and youngster Jason Zucker. This came only four losses after Yeo said he wouldn’t take one “of our key guys, … leaders, … or guys that we count on to score out.”
But the desperation, message-sending move designed to put several struggling players on notice, maybe players such as Mikael Granlund, Jason Pominville and Nino Niederreiter, didn’t have the effect of a victory.
“There’s no easy fix right now,” Yeo said Saturday morning. “We’re not just going to snap our fingers and all the sudden start winning every night. It doesn’t work like that. We have to build our game back, we have to build our confidence back. The way you do that is you go all-in to our team game.”
Yeo and GM Chuck Fletcher want the Wild to get back to defending well, and believe it or not, that for the most part occurred against the Blues.
But in the same game the Blues drew five power plays against the Wild, the Wild’s penalty kill, which has been fairly stingy since early December, crumbled. It didn’t help that defenseman Jared Spurgeon, one of Minnesota’s better penalty killers, didn’t play after the first few shifts of the second period.
There was no immediate word as to what was wrong, but he was high-sticked near the eye late in the first period by David Backes. The Wild is already without Jonas Brodin for the next three to six weeks with a broken foot.
The first power play was a questionable one. Scottie Upshall skated into Mikko Koivu’s elbow, then hit the deck to draw the penalty on the Wild captain.
A horrible penalty kill led to an easy Tarasenko goal, only his second in the past 12 games, for a 1-0 lead. Then, after Nate Prosser took an undisciplined roughing penalty on Upshall, Lehtera made it 2-0 eight seconds into that advantage.
The game became 3-0 when moments after Nino Niederreiter shot a puck right into goalie Brian Elliott, Tarasenko dangled around Christian Folin and Stastny scored off a goalmouth scramble.
The Wild cut it to 3-1 on Matt Dumba’s power-play goal, but that would be all she wrote for the fragile Wild offensively. The Wild, which has scored five power-play goals in the past five road games after scoring six in the first 22, went 1 for 7 on the power play. The coaches completely revamped the units with Vanek scratched, and then Spurgeon injured.
Elliott finished with 38 saves as the Blues, who had scored five goals in the previous five games, beat the Wild for the first time this season in regulation.